By Linda C. Smith
Artistic/Executive Director, RDT
During TOP BILL (Nov. 16-18, 2017), Repertory Dance Theatre honors a dedicated RDT Board Trustee, a friend, and a beloved member of the dance community. Known for her dynamic energy, wry sense of humor and her dedication to the arts, Janet Muse Gray has created a legacy that has helped make Utah a renowned center for dance in the nation.
Many people have a mentor whose influence and guidance they’ll never forget. For generations of Utah dancers, that mentor is Janet Gray. This legendary teacher and choreographer has directed her private East Millcreek dance studio since 1978.
After receiving her B.S. degree in psychology from the University of Utah in 1974, she took a financial risk by opening a school for dance, a training ground for thousands of students whose lives have been shaped by a woman with high artistic standards and expectation. Her teaching philosophy provides her students with careful, technical training as well as experiences which develop an educated appreciation for the arts. As a result, many of Janet’s students become not only performers, teachers, and business and community leaders, but also advocates and supporters of the arts.
Janet is known for her vigor and her high standards. She has a reputation for being tough, so tough, in fact, that Gray has a signature T-shirt bearing her mantra, “I Yell Because I Care,” which she frequently wears during class as a reminder for students.
In addition to directing the Janet Gray Studios for 40 years, she also finds time to serve as a board member for Repertory Dance Theatre and is an active choreographer for community theater projects.
She served twelve years as an Adjunct Associate Professor in the U of U dance department and has been a guest teacher and choreographer at the renowned Interlochen Arts Academy, The American College Dance Festival, RDA Mid-States Festival, Ballet West, Black Hills Dance Theatre, and St. Paul’s School, NH. She has received many honors, including “The 2003 Dance Professional of the Year Award” from the American Alliance for Physical Health Education Recreation and Dance organization (AAPHERD), Southwest Region.
Perhaps Janet’s greatest honor is awarded through the love and respect that is shown by the students she has mentored. Many have appeared professionally in Actor’s Equity musical theatre productions. Others, like RDT’s Elle Johansen, are dancing with professional
“I began training at Janet Gray Studios when I was nine and she taught me the basics of Jazz and Ballet. She would yell, and yell, and yell some more until you got things right. She was tough and demanded nothing less than perfection. If she gave you a compliment, you knew you were genuinely doing something right. She also shared important lessons and taught me that I needed to be accountable and responsible for myself. No one was going to do things for me. I had to try hard every single time I was challenged. If I didn’t, that voice of hers would come out, and I knew I needed to do better. She will always be more than just my dance teacher. She is my second mother, dear friend, and role model. Thank you, Janet for all you have done for me, I hope to continue to pass your legacy on and ‘yell because I care’.” (RDT dancer, Elle Johansen)
Janet, the RDT board, staff and dancers join hundreds of admirers who love you and thank you for all that you have contributed to us and to dance.